The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) has rejected Tehran’s legal bid to free up frozen Iranian assets worth some $2 billion.
In a 10-5 majority ruling, the United Nations’ highest court said on March 30 it did not have jurisdiction to rule on Iran’s claim against the United States over the Iranian central bank’s frozen assets of $1.75 billion in bonds, plus accumulated interest, that are held in a US bank account in New York.
In a partial victory for Tehran, the ICJ also found that some other US moves to seize assets of Iran and Iranians in the United States breached a 1955 friendship treaty between the two countries and said they should negotiate compensation.
If the sides fail to reach a number, they will have to return to the court for a ruling.
Tehran brought the case before the ICJ in 2016 after the US Supreme Court awarded the money belonging to the Iranian central bank to American victims of a 1983 deadly bombing in Lebanon and other attacks linked to the Islamic Republic.
At hearings last year, Iran’s representatives argued that the asset freeze was a breach of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights between Tehran and Washington.
US legal team leader Richard Visek told judges they should invoke a legal doctrine known as “unclean hands,” saying that “Iran’s own egregious conduct, its sponsorship of terrorist acts directed against the United States and U.S. nationals, lies at the very core of its claims.”
Visek also argued the frozen assets were not covered by the 1955 treaty signed long before the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the US-backed shah. Washington withdrew from the treaty in 2018.
Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic relations since hard-line students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran in November 1979, which resulted in dozens of Americans being taken hostage for 444 days.
In 2003, a US judge found the Islamic Republic responsible for the 1983 attack in Lebanon in which 241 American troops perished. The judge’s ruling said the Iranian ambassador to Syria at the time called “a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and instructed him to instigate the Marine barracks bombing.”
The Islamic Republic has denied any involvement in the attack.